A powerful chief executive who championed election reform in California and a politically disillusioned private eye are looking to upend the way elections are conducted in Colorado. The changes could create unfamiliar scenarios: Republicans and Democrats voting in each other’s primaries or unaffiliated voters automatically participating in the primaries without changing their registration. Or even replacing the primary with a preliminary election where the top two vote- getters among a pool of candidates advance to the general election, even if that means both candidates are from the same party. At least two people are leading discussions about changing Colorado’s elections. Kent Thiry of Cherry Hills Village is chief executive of DaVita, a Denver-based kidney dialysis company. Private investigator Ryan Ross of Denver is director of the Coalition for a New Colorado Election System. Both believe the current system is controlled by “partisan purists.”
Thiry shared few details about his efforts, but Ross outlined the coalition’s proposed 2014 ballot initiative earlier this year in an online invitation to an election workshop. It calls for a complete overhaul of the state’s election system.
“The ballot question would be: Should Colorado adopt a two-stage election system in which every registered voter can vote in each stage for any candidate on the ballot in their voting district?” Ross said in the invite.
He and Thiry can expect major opposition from traditional party activists.
Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said letting voters who aren’t Republicans determine the outcome of a Republican primary is like letting a “non-Catholic pick the pope.”
“If you want a say in who our party chooses as a candidate, you need to join us in order to have your voice heard.” Ryan Call, Colorado Republican Party chairman (Karl Gehring, Denver Post file)
Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said he’s for more voter participation, which is why he supported an elections bill that now allows same-day voter registration, but he doesn’t want Democrats and Republicans voting in each other’s primaries.
“That’s ripe for shenanigans,” he said.